Ambassador to the animal world

Paws and think about it: Jack Hanna, who is director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, will take the stage and share his knowledge at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on Saturday, Feb. 4.

“Please don’t call me an expert or a celebrity. I don’t like those words. If anything, I’m an ambassador to the animal world,” said Jack Hanna, about to take the stage and share his knowledge at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 4 pm.

Today, Hanna, who is director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, explains that he grew up on his father’s farm outside his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.

“I always knew I wanted to be a zookeeper and care for animals. And at the age of 11, I went to work for a veterinarian.”

Learning a great deal from his father and that vet, Hanna went on to study at Muskingum College in Ohio, where he got in trouble for keeping ducks in his dorm room and a donkey in a shed behind his fraternity house.

ldquo;Lots of people made fun of me but I didn’t care. I loved animals and was determined to work with them,” he insisted.

Growing up, Hanna says Marlin Perkins, from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, was his idol. Perkins was one of the first to bring animals from around the world into people’s living rooms through television. Later, Hanna, himself, would follow in his idol’s footsteps.

In 1968, Hanna took a mate, and he and wife Suzi, another dedicated animal lover, have lived, loved and worked together ever since.

“My wife has always been at my side, and our shared love of animals started at the very beginning. Our three daughters were also never far away from animals growing up.”

Over the years, among other programs, Hanna has been involved with The Columbus Zoo’s support of 70 conservation projects in over 30 countries around the world.

“One of the organizations close to my heart is Partners in Conservation, which works to help protect the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda.”

Hanna is also a noted author, having published his autobiography, Monkeys on the Interstate, as well as many books for children. He’s also been the host of several syndicated TV shows, and done guest spots on other shows with such personalities as David Letterman and Johnny Carson.

ldquo;I also do live shows, like the one coming up at the Keswick. I love teaching people about animals. I love seeing all those smiling faces. They’ll have fun and will have learned something by the time they walk out of the theater. If not, then I haven’t done my job.

ldquo;I feel blessed to have been in this field all these years. I consider myself a very lucky man,” he concluded. “And I always remember what my father taught me: Touch the heart, teach the mind.” ••

Advance tickets range from $29.50 to $55. Tickets on the day of the show range from $32 to $57.50. Visit keswicktheatre.com or call 215-572-7650.